Psalm 66: 1-10
MARK 6: 30-44

July 5, 2020

I often wonder about the human condition. Perhaps that’s the bane of those called into ministry by God’s Holy Spirit or just an element of my personality and make up. But, I do wonder.

The ebbs and flows of the thoughts and words we human beings hold tightly to. The contradictions that are demonstrated through our words and actions.  In today’s world we have found a new partner to human contradiction … a new element to add to our ability to literally speak out of both sides of our mouths; the internet that only enhances our contradictory nature while exposing some amongst us as being in conflict with the people they claim they are.

Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE uses that common English phrase as a reflection of Solomon’s teaching in Proverbs chapter 4; “Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth, avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Watch your step.”

Yet, every day I read words that people post that contradict the people and self identifiers they claim for themselves. Christians countering Christ because His directives make them feel ill at ease … those claiming to be the greatest Americans disagreeing with the basic tenets of our Constitution perhaps because those tenets empower others in addition to themselves especially when they don’t like those others.

On this day, following our remembering the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the birth of our nation on July 4, 1776, do we each recall the essence of the plan of the forefathers? Are we who we claim to be and stand on the foundation of our freedom that is found in our Bill of Rights? Freedom from Government sponsored religion … Freedom of the Press … Freedom of Speech … Freedom of Assembly for a Redress of Grievances. I hear the words and read the words of individuals wrapped up in our flag who want to deny others their free speech rights while claiming they themselves are super patriots.  I hear patriots drenched in their religiosity demanding that we need a government shoving religion down the nation’s throats but never considering that a national religion might not pray as they do or hold to faith practices that are theirs never considering that a government endorsed prayer might be to some god that is not their own. And, over and over again I hear the condemnation of the press and media demanding that they lose their voice … yet it is in our Constitution that their right to exist without governmental control and these other rights are in the very first right given to Americans.

It feels good to stomp our feet for ourselves … even if we have to talk out of both sides of our mouths at times. But, I was reminded again on Friday of the fragility of life … I am still in grief mode and feeling awful for my friend Drew at the loss of his wife Myrna. And, through my reflections on the life of my friend, a pastor who could preach … a pastor who could laugh … and a pastor who stood for justice even when voices around her said don’t. I find we have the need to consider who we are … at least I am attempting to determine whether my life reflects what I claim I believe.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing glory of God’s name! Make God’s praise glorious! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds. ALL THE EARTH BOWS DOWN to You.”

An interesting challenge … when was the last time you chose to bow down to God rather than to your personal desires, wants, and comforts?  The Psalmist says ALL THE EARTH BOWS DOWN … we sang today the old African American spiritual, “Let us break bread together on our knees … when I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord have mercy on me.”

Friends, feel free to kneel … Scripture calls us to bow down and kneel before the Almighty … do you have within your very soul the comfort level to recognize God’s greatness and our unworthiness of the salvation we can receive through Jesus Christ? Or is the unworthiness something that is owned by others because you are overly comfortable with you and think everyone needs to do what you expect? Do it your way?

When I played football in my younger days the coaches would call out TAKE A KNEE when we need rest and recovery. TAKE A KNEE … rest and recovery; I am here today to argue with you that TAKING A KNEE offers to each of us the opportunity for the rest and recovery that our lives need; it comes when we fall on our knees with our faces raised to God.  When we realize that we don’t need to be standing and stomping but we need to be praying and bowing. PRAY and BOW; CONFESS and PRAISE!

Praise our God, all peoples let the sound of God’s praise be heard! God has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.”  PRAISE GOD folks … worship GOD!!!  FEEL FREE To FALL on your knees church because if you don’t think of God and God’s awesome deeds as being worthy of bringing yourself down and raising God up then how true was the prayer of confession you shared with me just moments ago?

People of faith, are we enjoying speaking out of both sides of our mouths? Do we find power and comfort by wrapping ourselves up in ME not God? Are you loving ALL of your neighbors or have you been busy separating your neighbors into categories as to who is right like you and who is so so wrong.  Are you so wrapped up in unmasking so that everyone can see your beautiful face even if you might be asymptomatic because it is good for you even if it might bring harm to another?

FEEL FREE TO KNEEL CHURCH … I may have written today’s prayer of confession but the truth is I have a lot more confession to make to God than we would have had time to share in this morning. I NEED TO BOW to the ALMIGHTY! My sinful life … my ongoing life that counters Jesus teachings all too often needs that forgiveness … I need to remember God is great but in our world the INTERNET is GREAT; SUPERSTARS and CELEBRITIES are GREAT …. So let’s just be one with them, right?

I am sure you are very familiar with the loud voices, often wrapped in their own American patriotism who have castigated, cursed, and raised loud voices across this land against men willing to kneel for justice even though in their kneeling those men have done no harm to anyone. Even though those men are expressing their FREEDOM of SPEECH, an American Constitutional right … peacefully assembling but the chants and condemnation is poured out with some proclaiming that these men should lose their jobs … that they themselves would never kneel for justice … not at their work places … not on the streets … not even in their places of worship.

Church, FEEL FREE TO KNEEL!!! Support and encourage those KNEELING for JUSTICE; KNEELING in PRAYER for FREEDOM. One recent commentator said that if he saw the men kneeling for justice then he might have to kneel in prayer for the men’s souls. He was not being kind because he was critiquing and attacking the cause of justice but wouldn’t it be great is we all fell to our knees when we saw one or two or 22 men kneel for justice and to lift up justice in our prayers no matter what was happening around us. Imagine the change we can bring to the world by falling on our knees and showing the world that God deserves us bowing down to God. To show the world we honor God in prayer and worship.

The disciples were like us … humans with a desire for their own comforts and peace. We heard in today’s Gospel lesson how they wanted to chase the crowds away from Jesus. It was late in the day Mark writes. They turn to Jesus and tell Him … they didn’t ask they tried to tell the Son of God “Send the people away … so they can buy themselves something to eat.”  But Jesus said to them … “YOU give them something to eat.”

They complained that they didn’t have the money; “ARE WE to go and SPEND THAT MUCH on bread and then give it to THEM to eat?” Friends, haven’t we often heard the voices not willing to help the “THEMS in our world.” TELL THEM TO GET A JOB … TELL THEM TO DO IT FOR THEMSELVES … I HAD TO DO IT SO THEY SHOULD TOO. But Jesus had the Holy Answer for the reluctant disciples. We will do it for them.

Jesus offers the answer for the reluctant of the 21st century too. You see, if we put our focus on God and on Jesus Christ it is then that the psalmist teaching will hold true. “God has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.”

After Jesus fed those five thousand people His disciples went out onto the boat at night onto the Sea of Galilee without Him because Jesus was going to pray. Jesus was going to BOW DOWN to GOD and PRAY on a mountainside. A storm came up … Jesus walked across the water and calmed the sea. Jesus words mattered then and today, “TAKE COURAGE … IT IS I .. DO NOT BE AFRAID!”

So, today was we share in the bread and cup … FEEL FREE TO KNEEL.  Hear the psalmist and join in “Saying to God, “How awesome are your deeds. ALL THE EARTH BOWS DOWN to You.” Perhaps your body doesn’t let you kneel any longer but today if it does … perhaps for the first time in a long time FEEL FREE TO KNEEL before God. Rediscover how much the Creator of the Universe loves and forgives you.

And, as I remembered and mourned my friend I went to her social media. Her last three posts of her life were: one that clearly states that the leadership of the United Methodist Church stands throughout the world against racism; the second was a series of photo’s of her grandson Fallon playing with the dog and I could sense Myrna’s great smile when she wrote “my dog whisperer;” and the third was a photo of the chalk message she and Fallon had written on their driveway …BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I pray that the last messages that are preserved from my life can be messages wrapped up in justice and in love like hers were. FEEL FREE TO KNEEL CHURCH. … GOD’s love and power and AWESOMENESS deserves our worship and praise!


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